So, it's been a year.
We've had some losses. Some of those losses have been close in, some just close enough to impinge and remind. My uncle died. My sister-in-law's mother died, and her young cousin died. My sister died. My mom's neighbor (who was there when I was growing up) fell down his stairs and died, and then his wife's brother died a few weeks later. People at church who I grew up with have died.
Other crises have flashed through. My brother had a bone tumor removed from his arm (and he uses his arms and wrists and hands for his work, which is also his passion). My brother-in-law had a massive heart attack.
I also made a hard choice to leave a job I loved but which was killing me and hurting my family. And got a job at a place that demands I thrive and make time for living.
Another sibling was diagnosed with diabetes, which means his wellness will be so much easier to acheive, since he'll be working on the right challenges, instead of guessing and striving without knowing all the moving parts.
My kids got their diagnoses (two, anyway), which while challenging (still on waiting list for the right kind of care), means we know what to look for, how to help, what to press, what to let go. The other two are not diagnosed, but now I know more and identified important information. Gates opened.
My sister's death looped two branches of the family together who never really crossed. My sister (half, but we don't really think that way) is now connected to my cousin on my mom's side, who is not a direct blood relation at all. But when Hilary died, every strand in her net pulled tight, and we all interwove with each other. The sister one up from Hilary looped in and connected, and took up some of the weight that had been borne by Hilary, connected to the next generation, and hey, she has the same kinds of issues as my daughter M, and the two of them hit it off, my sister mentoring her young niece with experience and humor and insight. M's skills in self management shot up, and her happiness increased. That same sister now in closer orbit spotted things in B's riding she could help tune, and she has. Web, one strand pulled loose, now strung with more intention. I'm closer to my little sisters than I ever was before, and more grateful for this mishmash family than ever.
And with that net strung tighter, the service process that seems to be a theme for all of us clicked in and hummed. One sister helped another, we all spotted places where we each did some kind of volunteering, or worked toward a greater good, or served a community, or brought beauty or joy, or offered comfort and guidance. It's strangely uniform, even in those of us with ASD, this assumption of service. We didn't grow up with it, particularly. And we grew up apart, in different families, three main locuses of siblinghood, with adjuncts branching out. And yet when we pull the overlaps together to the core 12 kids, there's not one who hasn't spent a substantial portion of their life in service. Peace work, animal rescue and rehab, promotion of the arts, supporting the care of the elderly, working in healthcare or medical-related fields, hands on or through the vast network that feeds into systems that make lives better, healthier, safer. Funding and finding funding for charitable work as a primary job, or making sure life-critical medical systems never fail. Helping get medicines out into the world (including orphan drugs for rare diseases with no decent treatments yet), or veterinary work. Peace and collaboration work and intercultural understanding. Making things that add beauty to the world, and whimsy. Helping kids and adults learn discipline and develop more joy in their bodies through dance, and being a force for turning lives away from pits they'd fallen into or been pushed into, helping kids with special needs get through each school day, teaching kids to make joyful, beautiful noise... even the younger accountant serves with a steady calm that I'm sure feels like a lifeboat to many.
The interesting thing is that most of what we do would not need to feel like service, or embed service in it. We could just be 'a' service, do a job, go home. We don't have to bring love to it, compassion, grace. But we all seem to do so. And when we're not doing so enough for our own drives, it comes out sideways, driving us into service of some other sort, sharing our knowledge and experience, helping out friends, being an ear or a shoulder or a strong back.
I'm not sure where it comes from, except that somehow all our parents brought with them some sense of the same thing, that we are all connected, and that the fact of that connection brings with it a responsibility. Shouldering that responsibility well becomes a grace, and grace returns with grace.
There's a lot I don't do well. My energy sometimes goes out without much control, and expends, and leaves me with not enough to do stuff at home. Sometimes I scatter and do nothing well or completely. Or I am way not on time. Other times, I'm on it.
But it is always there. The drive to put it out there, to do something that feeds the universe, to throw my heart into the web, put my shoulder to the other person's wheel, to ease difficulty, and offer a hand up, and offer comfort.
At the same time, I am regularly in need of the same. It's ebb and flow, warp and weft. The energy goes out, the energy comes in. And yet I'm often surprised by the energy that comes in, when I need it, perhaps surprising me in its shape or form, but there, generous and willing.
The latest example of this is my brother-in-law's heart attack. Now, he and I have never been close, and we irk each other regularly. Our politics differ wildly, our methods differ wildly, and we are both stubborn, smart, and determined. So we butt heads. And. And he loves my sister, who is nobody's ideal of easy to love. She is challenging, and wildly passionate, fiercely intelligent, entirely her own. She has her demons, and her great difficulties, and her very different brain with its uniquely-her needs. She is rewarding to love, but it takes some big strength and patience and determination and an equal measure of stubborn to do it, sustain it, and sustain her. And he does. Admirably, he is the windbeaten tree her eagle roosts in, the warrior she fights for, home base, smart enough to see through her bs when she tries it (or when she did), and the sound box that resonates to her spirit's songs. She has always been unitarily her, her own self, ONE. He's not changed that, but he has given her a place in which to be ONE that doesn't leave her solitary and rootless. He partners, he husbands, he tends but doesn't control. At least so far as I can see. He's surely imperfect and human, but he is the right one for her.
And then he nearly died. Frankly, by all measures, he should have died. The doctors certainly didn't expect him to live the night. To make it out of surgery. To make it another day. To be able to breathe. To breathe on his own. To regain consciousness. To be able to walk. To have his brain function and his personality be 'him'. To recover enough to entirely skip rehab and go home. None of that was possible, in their experience. Maybe, maybe, he could have lived but been in a persistent coma. That would have been a miracle.
Instead, my sister, and because we love her, all of us, and all the people who love him beyond us, got a miracle of the highest order.
Yes, we sent out calls for Light, and energy, and well wishes, and prayers of all sorts. We sent them out through the family web, and into communities each of us has built. Thoughts and kindness and consideration and caring flowed back. And he lived. He lived, he moved, he breathed, he smiled and rolled his eyes and talked and groused about the hospital food and walked from his bed to the chair within hours of being taken off breathing support. And then walked too fast and too well to stay in the hospital. Day before yesterday, he went home.
I've been told I pay it forward, constantly, and so should not be surprised by the outflowing of love and support from every quarter. But I don't think of that when I give my energy and time and thoughts. I was completely surprised when Goddess-babe (a fribling (friend-sibling)) posted a request-by-extension in the Ask Moxie Facebook page asking for light and healing and good wishes, and they poured in there, too.
Surprised, and grateful. I give advice with no requirement that anyone take it. I'm a voice, and don't expect to be the final word, the expert on anything but my own lived experience (and things I've studied to a level of expertise, but those are quite few, and there are always people more expert than I am). But the help I offer is a hand, not a demand. There's no hitch, no pause, no waiting for it to come back. It will, or it won't, or it will go to someone else who needs it when they need it instead. I give because it goes into the Universe and makes life better, for someone, somewhere, somehow, maybe. I can't check, track down everyone that went 'ooh, yeah!' let alone those for whom it was a 'hmm, maybe' that would later integrate into something else that served them and theirs. I don't actually want to check, that feels icky. Greedy. Selfish. The giving is giving. Out, not in. I give. I receive. Others give. Others receive. The Universe breathes in, and breathes out. Sometimes I receive the breath of God, other times I am a feather on the breath of God.
Today, I'm thankful. It has been a year of loss and heartache, worry, fear, and change. Of too much to do, and too many burdens to carry. And also a year of relief, and joy, and celebration. A year of consideration and thoughtful choice, of urgency and hoping for the best while scrambling as best I could. A year of missing the mark repeatedly, and hitting it dead center repeatedly, and a vast number of near misses and almosts and so-so and fair enough. Clear eyed or squinting or eyes squeezed shut and just winging it and hoping to not blow it.
It has been a year. And I'm thankful for the miracles.
All of them. And that means all of us. And all of you.